Still Being Fashioned

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Psalm 119 is a fascinating chapter of Scripture. Not only is it the longest chapter in the Bible (at 176 verses) but it is divided into twenty-two 8-verse sections, corresponding with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the verses in the different sections all begin with the same Hebrew letter of that section. 

In the section called yodh, the psalmist wrote, “Your hands formed me and made me; give me understanding to learn Your commands” (v. 73). There is just one Hebrew word for “Your hands” and it also happens to be the name of this section of Psalm 119: Yodh. The psalmist sees God’s hands all over his life, and he welcomes God’s continued involvement in every aspect of his life. 

This yodh section is presented to us in alternating verses: the odd-numbered verses are a declaration, and the even-numbered verses are a corresponding prayer. It looks something like this…

Declaration: You made me

Prayer: May I be a hope-filled testimony to others by my reverence of You

Declaration: You continually discipline and fashion me

Prayer: May I continually find my comfort in Your unfailing love

Declaration: Your compassion is my life and my delight

Prayer: May You deal with those who afflict me while I remain focused on You

Declaration: You bring people into my life on purpose

Prayer: May I be a blameless witness of Your love

In light of this section I declare in prayer: “God, You created me on purpose and for a purpose. What You create, You complete; and what You complete, You complete perfectly. May I remain sensitive to Your Holy Spirit and malleable to Your touch, so that You are glorified through my obedient life.” 

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Be A First Responder

There is a line in an old hymn that convicts me every time I sing it: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” 

Why are we so slow to drop to our knees in prayer when trouble strikes? It seems we fool ourselves into thinking the problem is small enough to handle on our own, or we think God isn’t concerned with something that may seem trivial, or we’ve been-here-done-this before and know the way to go. But this isn’t what our Heavenly Father desires; instead, He wants us to come to Him before we try anything else. 

Instead of making prayer our last resort, why don’t we strive to make it our first response! 

Join me as we begin our series on prayer called Be A First Responder. We will be learning the value of praying fast and praying often, and we will see how being a prayer first-responder will benefit those around us too. 

If you have missed any of the messages in this series, you can check them out here:

Poetry Saturday—If We Had But A Day

We should fill the hours with the sweetest things,
   If we had but a day;
We should drink alone at the purest springs
   In our upward way;
We should love with a lifetime’s love in an hour,
   If the hours were a few;
We should rest, not for dreams, but for fresher power
   To be and to do.

We should guide our wayward or wearied wills
   By the clearest light;
We should keep our eyes on the heavenly hills,
   If they lay in sight;
We should trample the pride and the discontent
   Beneath our feet;
We should take whatever a good God sent,
   With a trust complete.

We should waste no moments in weak regret,
   If the day were but one;
If what we remember and what we forget
   Went out with the sun;
We should be from our clamorous selves set free,
   To work or to pray,
And to be what the Father would have us be,
   If we had but a day. —Mary Lowe Dickinson

More Of Christ

“Preacher and people, we need more of Christ. More of Christ would make that sad home bright, that wavering soul steadfast, that breaking heart happy, that mourning spirit glad, that burdened conscience light, that selfish nature generous, and make those who are parted in enmity stand with clasped and forgiving hands. More of Christ would smite down sectarian walls and win outcasts to the fold. More of Christ is what we all want in our hearts and homes, in our business and politics, in our schools and universities, in our churches and pulpits.” —Canon James Fleming

7 Quotes From David Livingstone

The Daring Heart Of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt is an amazing account of this man’s heroic and history-altering life. Check out my full book review by clicking here. Below are a few quotes that Milbrandt shared in his biography. 

“It is something to be a follower, however feeble, in the wake of the great Teacher and only model missionary that ever appeared among men.” —David Livingstone 

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.” —David Livingstone 

“I shall hold myself in readiness to go anywhere, provided it be forward. … Our duty is to go forward … I have observed that people who have sat long waiting have sat long enough before they saw any indication to go.” —David Livingstone 

“As they are experts with the spear I don’t know how it missed, except that he was too sure of his aim and the good hand of God was upon me.” —David Livingstone, after surviving two spears thrown at him during an ambush 

“The Gospels reveal Jesus, the manifestation of the blessed God over all as minute in His care of all. He exercises a vigilance more constant, complete, and comprehensive, every hour and every minute, over each of His people than their utmost selflove could ever attain. His tender love is more exquisite than a mother’s heart can feel.” —David Livingstone 

“If the good Lord permits me to put a stop to the enormous evils of the inland slave-trade, I shall not grudge my hunger and toils. I shall bless His name with all my heart. The Nile sources are valuable to me only as a means of enabling me to open my mouth with power among men. It is this power I hope to apply to remedy an enormous evil [in the East African slave trade]. Men may think I covet fame, but I make it a rule never to read aught written in my praise.” —David Livingstone 

“I am a missionary, heart and soul. God had an only Son, and He was a missionary and a physician. A poor, poor imitation I am or wish to be. In this service I hope to live, in it I wish to die.” —David Livingstone 

Self-made Or Spirit-led?

“And behold, two men were conversing with Him—Moses and Elijah, who appeared in splendor and majesty and brightness and were speaking of His exit from life, which He was about to bring to realization at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30-31)

Jesus was constantly making decisions that kept Him on the path straight toward Calvary’s Cross. He would let nothing deter Him from God’s appointed mission. Even when His own friends and family urged Him to find another route. 

It was at a moment like this—when Jesus had yet another choice to make about what path He would follow—that Moses and Elijah talked to Him, reminding Him of the ultimate outcome of His obedient and correct choices. 

At every crossroads—at every decision point—Jesus chose correctly. He chose to do God’s will for His life. He could have decided to do things His own way, but He leaned into the unmistakable voice of the Holy Spirit pointing Him toward the right path.

What does that mean for us today?

I have failed to make the right choice.
That means that I could have chosen correctly.
Jesus was human just like me.
Which means He had choices too.
He always chose correctly, even though the other possibility was there.
So the question is: Will I try to be a self-made man or a Spirit-led man?
I cannot be both.

10 Quotes From “Start With The Heart”

Kathy Koch has given parents, teachers, and anyone who works with younger children, and excellent resource to improve your relationship with your kiddos and empower them to greater success. Check out my full book review of Start With The Heart by clicking here. 

“For your children to want what you want for them, for changes to occur, and for improvements to remain, your hearts must be intertwined. Your motivational power and influence over their obedience comes out of the love you have for each other.” [see Proverbs 23:26] 

“Affirm your children when they do use the character qualities you’re emphasizing and correct them when they don’t. … Specifically, look for gratitude and joy. The lack of one or both of these emotions causes children (and adults) to use character qualities inconsistently.” 

“Here is my list of understandings that can secure children’s hearts and increase your influence so you’ll be able to motivate them to be responsible, brave, and so much more.

  • Parent by faith
  • Parent with grace and mercy
  • Forgive quickly and often
  • Ask to be forgiven quickly and often
  • Tell your children you are confident in God
  • Prioritize children, not their behavior
  • You can dislike what children do while you still like and love them
  • Be who you want your children to be
  • Raise the children you were given, not the children you wish you had
  • Remember needs and wants are different
  • Listen when children are little if you want them to talk with you when they’re older
  • When children have a problem, remember they are not the problem
  • Teach children to fail well
  • Prioritize progress, not perfection” 

“Children are even more susceptible to the influences around them. We should have and model solid character so our behavior, attitudes, and decisions glorify God. We should also prioritize our character so we don’t lead a child astray. Making every effort to use these qualities ourselves matters. And, of course, apologizing when we don’t is key to maintaining a positive relationship.” 

“The desire to develop self-control is birthed in self-respect. Self-control makes it possible to use other character qualities successfully.” 

“Do we choose to see our children’s circumstances and respond appropriately? Although consistency is usually appropriate when raising and motivating children, if we don’t have compassion and individualize our reactions and decisions when it’s appropriate, why would our children? Modeling this character quality matters tremendously.” 

“Initiative: Children may never develop this quality if you remind them of everything they must do. Rather, it’s birthed when you help them grow in appropriate independence. … Is it possible that your children may not be motivated as you’d like because you rescue them to early, too often? … I know you value the things you worked hard for. Don’t rob children of that same satisfaction. Allow them to persevere.” 

“Prayer is a powerful tool—use it! Your personal and specific prayers for your children communicate your deep love for them and your dependence on God. Your prayers are a significant way your children learn who you hope they’ll be and what you hope they’ll do. Pray they’ll develop a heart for Christ. Model and teach what they need for their heart to be transformed into His likeness. This will change their character and, therefore, their motivation and motives, too.” 

“Just making statements like these can be empowering:

  • I need to take off arguing and put on first-time obedience.
  • I need to take off bullying and put on kindness.
  • I need to take off distractions and put on focus.
  • I need to take off ‘I don’t want to’ and put on ‘do it anyway.’” 

“This might surprise you, but all children are motivated. … It doesn’t help to ask, ‘How do I get my kids motivated?’ Rather, we need to ask, ‘How can I redirect their motivation?’” 

Stay tuned: more quotes coming soon…

Growth Problems

…the number of disciples was increasing… (Acts 6:1).

Growth is a nice problem to have. But it is still a problem that needs to be addressed, or else the growth can implode an organization. 

In this instance, the early Christian church was growing rapidly and attempting to address the need for getting food to widows. Apparently, some of the widows were being overlooked in that food distribution. 

To start the ball rolling on solving this growth problem, the apostles gave some simple parameters: We will focus on preaching, the rest of you should select administrators to oversee the food ministry (vv. 2-4). The job description was pretty simple too—they must have a good reputation, be full of the Holy Spirit, be wise, and (this is implied) be willing to serve.

Notice the trust the church leaders placed in that congregation: 

  • seek out from among you
  • they chose
  • they set them [the candidates] before the apostles

The congregation was pleased by both the apostles’ plan and the level of trust that was conferred on them. It appears that seven men were the unanimous selection of both the congregation and the church leaders. 

After these men were installed in their new administrative roles, look at the results:

  • more preaching
  • more salvations
  • more inroads into the Jewish religious leadership sect
  • more people fed
  • more miracles performed
  • and more persecution from those threatened by the church’s rapid growth

It’s interesting to note that Luke uses the word added to talk about the church’s growth in chapters 1-5, but after this growth problem is successfully resolved, Luke stops using added and only uses multiplication terminology. 

When handled the right way, growth problems—or any problems, for that matter—lead to more growth. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who handles growth problems correctly. 

This is part 36 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Hear And Do

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Hear And Do

     The emphasis in these verses [Matthew 7:24-29] is laid by our Lord on hearing and doing. … We hear only what we listen for. Have we listened to what Jesus has to say? Have we paid any attention to finding out what He did say? Most of us do not know what He said. If we have only a smattering of religion, we talk a lot about the devil; but what hinders us spiritually is not the devil nearly so much as inattention. We may hear the sayings of Jesus Christ, but our wills are left untouched, we never do them. … 

     Pay attention to His words, and give time to doing it. Try five minutes a day with your Bible. The thing that influences us most is not the thing that we give most time to, but the thing that springs from our own personal relationship, that is the prime motive that dominates us. … 

     “Build up your character bit by bit by attention to My words,” says Jesus, then when the supreme crisis comes, you will stand like a rock. … If a man has built himself up in private by listening to the words of Jesus and obeying them, when the crisis comes it is not his strength of will that keeps him, but the tremendous power of God. … All you build will end in disaster unless it is built on the sayings of Jesus Christ; but if you are doing what Jesus told you to do, nourishing your soul on His word, you need not fear the crisis whatever it is. … 

     There is a tendency in all of us to appreciate the sayings of Jesus Christ with our intellects while we refuse to do them. … 

     The Holy Spirit’s voice is as gentle as a zephyr, the merest check; when you hear it do you say, “But that is only a tiny detail, the Holy Spirit cannot mean that, it is much too trivial a thing”? The Holy Spirit does mean that, and at the risk of being thought fanatical you must obey. … What does it matter what anyone thinks of us as long as Jesus Christ thinks we are doing the right thing, as long as we can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?” 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Hear/read God’s Word → Listen to how the Holy Spirit tells me to apply it to my life → Then apply it to my life → Repeat this process again tomorrow… 

Sabbathing

On the Wednesday of Christ’s Passion Week, all of the Gospel writers are in perfect agreement. Between all four of them, they write not one word about what happened on that day. That silence actually speaks volumes to us!  

Jesus is almost surely in Bethany (since that has become is nightly retreat this week), and He is taking a Sabbath rest. “Wait,” you might be saying, “sabbathing on Wednesday?! I thought that was supposed to be Saturday or Sunday?” 

The Sabbath is not a day; it’s an attitude of the heart. 

Jesus followed the example His Father set right at the beginning. 

The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between Me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:16-17)

Notice that God rested and was refreshed. The word rested means to stop working and celebrate. It’s a time to reflect on the work completed and celebrate what has been done. Then the Bible says God was refreshed, which literally means “God refreshed Himself.” He took a deep, satisfying, rejuvenating breath! 

Resting and being refreshed—or sabbathing—is not a luxury; it’s a necessity! 

Jesus understood this principle of sabbathing. Remember that He had only a limited time to accomplish all that the Father had for Him: “We must work the works of Him Who sent Me and be busy with His business while it is daylight; night is coming on, when no man can work” (John 9:4 AMP). If anyone was a Man on a mission, it was Jesus, and yet rest was vital to Him…

  • …from the very beginning of His life, Jesus practiced healthy habits
  • …He started each day in prayer 
  • …He rested and refreshed after expending Himself in ministry, and encouraged His disciples to do so as well (see Luke 2:52; Mark 1:35; 6:30-32, 45-46) 

Now—just before the intense, horrific, inhumane experience He is about to go through—Jesus is sabbathing. He is resting and refreshing His body, soul, and spirit. 

So what keeps us from sabbathing? 

  1. Guilt—“I feel guilty taking time off.” Remember that if Jesus did it, we should too. 
  2. Misplaced priority—“If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” But remember Who is in charge. The psalmist reminds us, “The Lord is king!” (Psalm 99:1). 
  3. Fear—“If I ‘tune out’ what might I be missing?” Remember: Your Father is watching over you every single moment (see Psalm 121).  

If you want to experience more productivity in your life, don’t try to go 24/7—take a sabbath break. Stop working and celebrate what God has done, then take a deep breath of worship in God’s presence. Jesus demonstrated that sabbathing was vital for ministry success. 

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